Starring: Rhonda Griffin, Justin Lauer, Bill Moynihan, Jon Simanton
“You’re history, you little pervert! No, you’re archaeology, as in old garbage!” (Anna, The Creeps)
Full Moon Pictures is one of my favourite B-movie horror studios. Established in the 1980s, it was well-known among horror fans for its cheesy low-budget efforts.
Some, like Puppet Master and Subspecies, were so popular they went on to spawn their own multi-sequel franchises. Others, like Dollman – in which an intergalactic bounty hunter crashlands on space only to realise he’s ten inches tall – weren’t.
Full Moon continues to this day, and while most of its recent output retains all of the cheese, it leaves out most of the charm. Titles like The Gingerdead Man and Dangerous Worry Dolls sound like they should be superb slices of low-budget larks (well, they do to me at least) but ultimately they end up in the TWABM Hall Of Shame.
Starring: Dominique Swain, Jake Busey, Joshua Allen, Christopher Johnson
Also known as: Bloodstorm (UK DVD)
“Come on, you bobble-headed zombie Nazi son of a bitch! Fick dich!” (Dr Paige Morgan, Nazis At The Center Of The Earth)
I’ve spoken in the past about The Asylum, the delightfully shameless film studio that have no qualms about constantly releasing low-budget rip-offs of popular films to trick confused mothers at video rental stores (Snakes On A Train, Paranormal Entity and Atlantic Rim spring to mind).
With said rental stores on the way out though, The Asylum have instead seemingly switched their focus to original movies, albeit completely ridiculous ones.
Starring: Jenna Jameson, Robert Englund, Roxy Saint, Penny Drake
“Let’s see if I got this straight. Our best stripper is a reanimated corpse who is feeding off the living flesh of our customers, who in turn reanimate, even if they’re just a fucking head? You don’t see this as a problem?” (Ian, Zombie Strippers)
Usually when a film has such a blatant and exploitative title as this it’s using that title to draw people to a film that in reality can’t live up to the name (hang your head, Alien Terminator). Zombie Strippers however not only successfully does what it says on the tin, but crams so much of both aspects into said tin that you’d need some sort of special spatula device to be able to scoop out the tightly packed contents. What I’m basically saying in a needlessly elaborate way is there’s a lot of zombies in here, and a lot of stripping.
It begins, as so many zombie films do, with a secret government research facility making an arse of things. They were trying to create a bunch of super soliders that could come back to life after being killed, but naturally what they made instead was a bunch of zombies. After a failed attempt to destroy them, one escapes and makes his way to a strip club where he attacks Kat – a stripper (Jenna Jameson) – and bites her neck out. And if you think I’m going to stoop to the obvious “deep throat” joke there, then I’m frankly stunned. Continue reading “Zombie Strippers (2008) review”→
Starring: Treat Williams, Joe Piscopo, Lindsay Frost, Darren McGavin, Vincent Price
ROGER – So what’s the story on these John Does? What’s so unbelievable?
CORONER – I’ll show you. The teeth and fingerprints are practically worthless but I noticed one thing – stitches. You can see where the cut was made, traversing the sternum and incised with an electric saw.
ROGER – They had surgery?
CORONER – Nope. They had autopsies. They’ve been here before, fellas. I certified them myself.
Dead Heat is an 80s cop movie in which one of the cops is a zombie. There you go, that should be all you need, enjoy.
Fine, I suppose I’ll elaborate for the sake of making this review worth your while, but that description really does sum up what I believe is one of the most criminally overlooked cult gems of the 1980s.
Detective Roger Mortis (get it?) and his partner Doug Bigelow are called to a robbery at a jewellery store. As the crooks leave the store they pull out shotguns and start shooting at the countless officers who have surrounded the area. Although the officers score a number of direct shots on the criminals, it doesn’t appear to harm them and they continue to shoot cops dead until one is blown up and the other is run over.
Roger and Doug reckon there’s something funny about this so they ask the coroner (and Roger’s ex) to look into it. It turns out the criminals had been dead before, and had somehow come to life. Dum dum dummm. Continue reading “Dead Heat (1988) review”→
Starring: Susan Cabot, Michael Mark, Anthony Eisley
“Something’s happening to me. I can’t control it.” (Janice, The Wasp Woman)
If I had a penny for every 50s movie that copied the whole “scientific process goes boink” set-up of The Fly, I’d probably have around 20-25p to my name. What can I say, I’m realistic. Either way, The Wasp Woman is one such movie, and while its setting and plot begin differently to that of The Fly, things soon start to get very familiar.
After neglecting his job as a beekeeper by instead catching wasps and performing experiments on them in his office, the eccentric and elderly Eric Zinthrop is told to piss off and take his wanky little wasps with him (well, he’s fired, but I like my wording better). As far as Zinthrop sees it, it’s their loss, because he’s close to a major breakthrough on a new anti-aging formula that uses a queen wasps’ royal jelly instead of that of a queen bee.
Zinthrop pays an unannounced visit to Starlin, a cosmetic firm in New York, and asks for an audience with their owner Janice Starlin. He shows her what he’s got – a serum that when injected into an animal doesn’t just stop it from aging, but actually reverses the process and makes it look younger. Stunned, Janice gives him an immediate contract and promises to pay him anything he wants to develop and perfect the formula exclusively for her company. Continue reading “The Wasp Woman (1959)”→
“It’s my theory that these creatures are driven to mate with man now in order to further develop their incredible evolution.” (Dr Susan Drake, Humanoids From The Deep)
When all’s said and done, you can’t beat a good Roger Corman film. Corman is the godfather of B-movie cinema and has produced well over 300 low-budget films over the past 50 years, the vast majority of which have been cheesy horror films heaving with gore, titillation or both. Humanoids From The Deep falls into the “both” category and is silly fun, though there it does have one or two questionable moments.
It’s set in the small fishing resort of Noyo, where the townsfolk are in the process of celebrating the announcement of a salmon cannery which is to be built there, greatly increasing the fishermen’s productivity. Good news!
Oh, except for the fact that the company building the cannery is also responsible for experiments in salmon growth hormones, which have spread into the sea and somehow led to the creation of bizarre slimy half-man half-fish monsters that like to swim out of the sea and onto land, ripping the faces off any men they find and raping the women. And, in case you hadn’t guessed, it’s here where Humanoids From The Deep gets a bit iffy. Continue reading “Humanoids From The Deep (1980)”→
Starring: Robert Forster, Robin Riker, Michael Gazzo
“I’m gonna go out there, I’m gonna find that alligator, and I’m gonna kick its ass.” (David, Alligator)
Here’s a top tip – if your young daughter does something that annoys you, don’t flush her pet baby alligator down the toilet to punish her. Chances are, twelve years later the alligator will still be living in the sewers and will have mutated into a huge beast by eating genetically modified dogs. Oh, and according to Alligator, your daughter will also mysteriously age about 20 years and become a redhead.
Alligator is a fun creature feature that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It follows David Madison, a Chicago cop investigating a number of body parts that have mysteriously been turning up in the city’s water filtration systems. It soon emerges that there’s an alligator living in the sewers, one much bigger than any other alligator known to man.
You see, a local pharmaceutical company has been experimenting with hormones. They’ve been illegally acquiring dogs, injecting them with a serum that makes them grow quickly, then dumping them into the sewer when they’re finished with them. The gator’s then been eating them, hence its ridiculous size. After going into the sewers and seeing the gator eat one of his partners, David has to convince his fellow cops – as well as an alligator specialist (who’s the little girl grown up) – what they’re dealing with. Continue reading “Alligator (1980)”→
“What hell have you unleashed down here?” (random shouty bloke, Alien Undead)
Well, this is just bloody silly. In a research facility one mile below the Earth’s surface (aren’t they all in this sort of film?), a team of scientists is working on a batch of genetically mutated humans spliced with the DNA of the devil. Naturally, things go a bit awry and a group of eight survivors try to escape the facility before the newly angry devil-mutants now roaming the corridors manage to get hold of them.
This being a low-budget Australian horror film, these eight people conveniently fit nicely into their own stereotypical roles. There’s the loudmouth smartass woman who just sits there and says “yeah, reeeeeal smart idea, let’s just get ourselves killed” without actually contributing any ideas herself, there’s the effeminate wimpy guy who’s terrified of everything, there’s the tough guy, there’s the old scientist lady who plays dumb but really knows what’s going on and of course there’s the ethnic minority chap, who in this is just another Australian putting on an atrocious South American accent of some sort. Continue reading “Alien Undead (2010)”→
“No force on earth or heaven could get me on that island.” (Alan Grant, Jurassic Park III)
Some twat (Leoni) sends her son on holiday with her boyfriend, where they both go parasailing over Isla Sorna to try and see some dinosaurs. Clearly not bothering to pay attention to the carnage in Isla Nublar or the incident a few years prior in which a big T-Rex kicked the shit out of San Diego, they somehow seem surprised when things go wrong and they crash-land on the island.
Weeks pass and the twat and her loser ex-husband (Macy) are worried, so they pretend to be millionaires and propose an offer to the original film’s hero, Dr Alan Grant (Neill): be our tour guide as we fly over the island to see some dinosaurs, and we’ll pay you enough money to keep your archaeology gig going for years to come. Grant reluctantly agrees and is understandably pissed off when the plane instead lands on the island and the twat and loser tell him their secret – they’re actually not rich and he’s been roped into helping them find their missing son. This is no longer a research project, it’s a rescue mission… except Grant doesn’t say that because Jeff Goldblum already got to say it in the second film.
If the original Jurassic Park was a spectacle – a unique film at the time that changed the face of big-bidget special effects cinema – and The Lost World was Spielberg’s homage to King Kong, Godzilla et al, Jurassic Park III is basically just a high-budget Lockjaw or Sharktopus. It’s goofy, it’s got some ridiculous moments in it and any thought-provoking social commentary in there (of which there’s very little) is there by complete accent.
The raptors have been given an overhaul this time around, and are so intelligent that it’s getting a bit silly. Now it seems they can talk to each other (in dino-speak, of course), something they oddly chose not to do in the first film when stalking two children through a kitchen, a scenario in which communication could have been helpful. Even more ridiculous is that Grant, by sheer chance, happened to have been given a replica of a raptor’s windpipe earlier in the film and in a key scene late in the film, just as he’s being surrounded by raptors, he blows in it and magically makes noises that not only sound like a raptor, but can actually be understood by them. How in the realm of fuck does that happen?
That aside, there are some new dinos chucked into the mix here too, which range from awesome (the Spinosaurus may actually be a little bit better than the T-Rex, as proven in the scene where they fight and it breaks the T-Rex’s neck) to disappointing – for years fans of the series wanted to see pterodactyls getting used in action scenes, but it’s all just a bit rubbish when we finally get our wish and are hit with a visually impressive but sloppy aviary scene. Not to mention the usual Jurassic Park name-fail by featuring dinosaurs that didn’t actually exist during the Jurassic period.
The strong trio of Neill, Macy and Leoni aside, the supporting cast have all the charisma of a packet of Monster Munch. Grant’s apprentice Billy is so boring and generic (just look as his name for Christ’s sake) that when he disappears, seemingly left for dead, then magically appears again at the end of the film with no explanation as to how he survived, you think “oh, I forgot about him” even though you only just saw him 20 minutes previously.
Meanwhile, the series’ annoying child tradition continues when Grant finds the missing son but this time he’s even more annoying because, having survived in dino-infested jungle for so long, he’s a know-it-all kid rather than your basic screamer. Needless to say, the fact that the film doesn’t end with a raptor picking bits of him out of his teeth and speaking to the others in raptorese while a subtitle says “tastes like CHILDREN hahahaha” is nothing short of an injustice.
Any time I watch a film I consider what lessons I’ve learned from it. The lesson I learned from the original Jurassic Park is that you should never try to play God, no matter how appealing the results may seem. The sequel, meanwhile, taught me that you shouldn’t try to mess around with nature and try to take things out of their natural habitat because things will go wrong. The only thing Jurassic Park III taught me is that if you ever go to a foreign country and can’t speak the language, simply cut a native’s throat out and blow through their windpipe like some sort of obscene flute and you’ll get along fine.
None of the above is to say Jurassic Park III is a terrible film, mind you, it’s entertaining in the same way watching a fight going on outside your window is entertaining – it’s a good laugh and you’ll chuckle away for its short duration but you wouldn’t exactly film it and try to sell it to the Tate Gallery. This is a big-budget creature feature and is simply dumb fun.
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Vince Vaughn, Richard Attenborough
HAMMOND – “Don’t worry, I’m not making the same mistakes again.” MALCOLM – “No, no, you’re making all new ones.”
If the original Jurassic Park was a love letter to our childhood obsessions with dinosaurs and our desire to one day see one in real life, The Lost World instead takes its inspiration from King Kong and others of its ilk, showing what happens when large beasts are confronted in their natural habitat and how they react when placed in unfamiliar surroundings. Fear is replaced with sympathy, and by the end of the film Spielberg’s big accomplishment this time isn’t making us believe these fearsome creatures exist, but making us actually want them to overcome our own species in order to survive. That’s right, I can get deep when I want to.
After the incidents of the first film essentially made the Jurassic Park complex in Isla Nublar a bit of a write-off, The Lost World starts with Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) meeting up with John Hammond (Attenborough) for a little chat. Hammond tells Malcolm that Isla Nublar wasn’t really the main site, and that there was actually another island called Isla Sornar where they bred the dinosaurs and raised them in their natural habitat before moving them over to Jurassic Park. Remember that scene at the start of the first Jurassic Park where they were putting the raptor in the crate? That was at the other island, that was.
Hammond tells Malcolm that Ingen, the company he was in charge of, has punted him and put a weaselly lawyer guy in charge instead. Not dissuaded by this, Hammond wants Malcolm to head to the second island as part of a research group to study the dinosaurs. Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, the sneaky old prick has also invited Malcolm’s scientist girlfriend to join the team and has already sent her there as a way of convincing him to go. Malcolm perhaps puts it best himself, in the first of many one-liners he gets in this film: “this is no longer a research project, it’s a rescue mission”. Little does Hammond know, however, that Ingen has sent its own workers to the island, in an attempt to bring the dinos back to the US and show them at a new Jurassic Park in San Diego. Because the last one worked out so well.
The Lost World tries its best to outdo the original in every way possible. You liked the bit with the T-Rex? Well now there are two of them! You liked when they were running with the herd? Now there’s a bigger herd and people are trying to catch them! Remember the sick triceratops? There’s a healthy one this time, and it fucks shit up! You liked seeing people interact with the dinosaurs? Well now a whole army turns up at one point to hunt them all down! You wanted a stegosaurus? Job done, and while we’re at it let’s have it wreck loads of shit in the process so it looks more bad-ass.
The problem is, in adding all this extra action there’s less focus on the story, and while most people don’t exactly watch Jurassic Park films for the character development, there’s still something missing this time around in terms of that human element. You still care about Malcolm because he’s familiar to you after the first film, but the other main characters – his annoying daughter, his headstrong girlfriend (Julianne Moore), their photographer (Vince Vaughn), the veteran hunter who wants to bag a T-Rex (Pete Postlethwaite) – are all lacking that certain something and, ultimately, you couldn’t care less whether they survive or end up as part of a T-Rex’s next shite.
Speaking of big Rexy, it’s once again the tyrannosaurs who steal the show despite the obligatory raptor scenes. The scene in which two T-Rexes push the team’s trailer off a cliff is impressive stuff, and when a solitary Rex discovers a large group of Ingen workers camping out chaos ensues.
By far the most memorable (and opinion-dividing) moment however is the film’s last fifteen minutes, in which Ingen manage to get a T-Rex back to the US and it starts running riot through the streets of San Diego. This is clearly Spielberg’s attempt at Godzilla and while it’s fun, it’s a bit of a jarring change of tone that doesn’t really sit well with the rest of the film.
The Lost World was never going to better the sheer novelty and innovation offered by the original Jurassic Park, but as sheer spectacle it’s still up there. It loses a little personality and while it’s still good fun to watch it does start to feel more like a generic monster movie by the end… but hey, you haven’t seen anything yet. Just wait until I review the third one.